I’ve been delivering food for more than 3 weeks now and it has been interesting to observe my own behaviour from the beginning till now. I thought these recent years of inner work have made me a lot more zen, but I guess it is easier to be zen when stimuli is removed.
Delivering food however, is all about handling various stimuli. Crowds, people’s behaviour, weather, buildings with poor wayfinding, slow lifts, etc. I did realise I was a lot less frustrated compared my old spoilt self, yet I still found myself constantly anxious, because the mechanics of food delivery is designed to make one anxious. The faster you deliver, the more you earn, sometimes when you take too long to deliver the peak hours or your shift ends and the result is making less deliveries than one expects in a typical period. It is interesting for me because I am not exactly doing it for the money, and yet I found myself getting caught up in trying to “win the game”.
My hypothesis is that our primal brain is just difficult to turn off. When there is a competition we are primed to want to win it, even if we don’t really need to win. I am not typically competitive against other people (or so I think) but I am competitive in solo games and I had also found myself competing against my partner since she works the same shifts as me.
So I have to learn to cajole myself to slow down, to work against my instincts. The first week I was brisk walking on the verge of jogging, I was always running to be in time for pedestrian lights in my favour, I was very anxious to complete the job because the next one is in the queue and if one is too slow to complete the current one the one in the queue disappears (and it may take a long while for a new order to come in again)! I thought it was very funny that I was behaving that way. It was as if I wasn’t in control and once I am thrown into the game, I lost any sense of self-direction and I became directed by the game itself. Sounds like a metaphor of life, huh?I
So slowly I trained myself to walk slower, to ignore the job in the queue, to stop running for traffic lights and to be chill whenever I have to wait for very slow lifts. My original motivation was to do this for exercise, and it defeats the purpose if I become more anxious than I was.
This is bringing me opportunities to exercise my spirit and also to train my capacity to tell my instincts to chill. Every shift is a mini-series of zen exercises. The most important part of this is that: this is done on my own terms. I am not forced into work arrangements against my will, I could also choose to disengage anytime I want.
I got sick yesterday because I worked a little too long and too hard, and it brought me back into a familiar pattern. I guess the hope for self-improvement is to keep trying to do the same thing over and over again with the hope that one day I could respond differently to something that keeps impacting me negatively. I have a hard time discerning when to stretch my limits and when to give myself a break. I think this stems from my out-of-sync relationship with my body. I am just terrible at listening to it.
When I was working in tech it felt a little abstract and without knowing it I probably had a sense of entitlement. That because I worked in a swanky office and did things with the computer I felt like I was special. It made me disconnected from human beings in a not-so-good way. Delivering food snaps me back to reality, to be part of a reality that many people are facing. The fatigue, the stoicity, the challenges, and that includes the perception that food delivery is an unsavoury occupation. There are people who treat us like we’re meant to be ordered around and we don’t deserve respect. So this teaches me to be a much better person than I was in treating other people – I think I was always trying to be nice, but I was probably not very kind, the sort of kindness that comes with genuine appreciation, presence and respect.
Yesterday I made a delivery with a half-spilled Tom Yam soup and it stained the rest of the food containers. It was in a thermal bag that was strapped to the back of my bicycle and I didn’t expect it to spill. Now I’ve learned that spillage is so common that some riders bring their own cling wrap to prevent it. I was very apologetic to the customer and she didn’t make me feel bad even though I know she could. I guess because of the nature of the job there are a ton of opportunities for mistakes and delays, which becomes a win-win situation for me, because when I meet nasty people I practice equanimity, and when I meet gracious people I practice gratitude and connection.
Some people may think that this is a waste of my “talent” and skills, but I have learned that talent and skills amount to nothing if it brings me nothing but misery, sickness, and a contempt for people. I have become very skeptical of tech and it would be difficult ethically and psychologically for me to step back in again. And if I do ever do so for some good reason, I hope my psyche is whole enough to be with the power and responsibility that comes with it.
Else, I am okay with trying to live as best as I can, and to continue working on my spirit – not because I am trying to be a better person, but rather I think the only way to know whether life is worth living or not is to widen one’s perspective and deepen one’s spirit, enough to be genuinely present with the world and not just relating abstractly to it, or trapped in false narratives.